DEC | 2014
Leonia firehouse assault suit settled; Parents of victim agree to $320,000
A lawsuit filed by the parents of a boy molested at the borough firehouse last year was settled Thursday for $320,000, according to the parents’ attorney.
The settlement was approved by Bergen County Superior Court Judge Brian Martinotti, said the attorney, Rosemarie Arnold of Fort Lee.
Arnold filed the suit in September, more than a year after her client, 3 years old at the time, was sexually assaulted by a developmentally disabled teenager who had been volunteering at the firehouse and had hoped to join the department.
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DEC | 2014
Woman treated for routine infection loses legs and hand
A Queens manicurist went to the hospital with a routine infection — and came out missing both legs, her left hand and three fingers on her right, according to a malpractice lawsuit.
Modal TriggerKorean native Myung Hwa Jang, 61, was rushed to New York Hospital Queens in February 2013 after receiving an alternative medicine treatment called Ringer’s solution at a clinic, her lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, told The Post.
The procedure flushes the body with a saline solution to treat exhaustion.
“All the people at the nail salon went to the Chinese clinic. They said the Ringer’s solution made them feel more energetic,” Arnold said.
Jang, 61, went to the hospital in Flushing feeling ill, but doctors failed to diagnose her sepsis and she developed gangrene, according to court papers.
A hospital spokeswoman said, “We aren’t able to discuss any litigation with the media.”
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DEC | 2014
Bad medicine: Suit claims 'kickback' scheme at Sanofi
A new lawsuit claims the recently ousted CEO of Sanofi and other executives at the huge drugmaker conducted a scheme in violation of federal law to funnel tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks and other incentives to get the company's diabetes drugs prescribed and sold.
The whistleblower lawsuit also claims Sanofi CEO Christopher Viehbacher was fired by the company's board in October "in part, because Defendant Viehbacher was involved in the aforesaid illegal and/or fraudulent activity," which allegedly went on "over the course of many years."
The suit filed Wednesday says that Sanofi used contracts that appeared to be for legitimate purposes to direct money to hospitals, doctors and retail pharmacy chains to induce them to purchase and prescribe Sanofi's diabetes medication. It also claims that "approximately $1 billion is missing from Defendant Sanofi which has not been accounted for."
Sanofi itself in October cited poor relations between Viehbacher and the board as the reason he was sacked.
The bombshell new kickback allegations by a Sanofi paralegal named Diane Ponte—who herself was fired in September after allegedly suffering retaliation for bringing the scheme to light—come two years after the drug company reached an agreement with the Justice Department and several states to pay $109 million to settle claims that it engaged in kickbacks by giving doctors free samples of an arthritis drug as a way to encourage them to buy and prescribe that medication.
Such kickbacks are illegal because they can encourage the prescription of drugs that are covered by federal Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs, and thus have taxpayers foot the bills for medication that might otherwise not have been prescribed.
After that 2012 settlement, Sanofi also had a corporate integrity agreement with the Health and Human Services Department requiring the company to abide by federal health-care laws and to report illegal activities by the company and its employees, Ponte's suit said. However, a check of HHS' database of such integrity agreements indicated that pact had not been executed as of yet.
Sanofi on Wednesday indicated it had not yet been served with Ponte's lawsuit, but in a statement said, "Sanofi does not comment on litigation."
On Thursday, after reviewing the suit, Sanofi issued a new statement, which said: "Diane Ponte is a disgruntled former employee who is opportunistically attacking our company. Ponte filed for violations of New Jersey state employment law, specifically the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act ('CEPA')."
"The employment law allegations are without merit, and Sanofi will vigorously defend the suit. We take this matter very seriously and will protect our company and our reputation," Sanofi said.
Ponte's suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Newark, names as defendants Sanofi, Viehbacher, Sanofi General Counsel Robert DeBerardine and other executives, including Sanofi's former vice president of its U.S. diabetes business, Dennis Urbaniak, and the ex-assistant vice president of special projects, Raymond Godleski.
"It's shocking that these people got away with this for so long and then fired this woman for uncovering their wrongdoing," said Rosemarie Arnold, lawyer for the 53-year-old Ponte. "She was blatantly fired as a result of her whistleblowing activity."
The suit says Sanofi and its managers created a hostile work environment for Ponte after she made her allegations of wrongdoing and created a pretext for her dismissal in September.
The suit said Ponte became aware of the alleged diabetes drug scheme in March 2013, when she received electronic requests for her approval of nine Sanofi contracts worth a total of $34 million—seven contracts with the consulting firm Accenture, and two with the professional services firm Deloitte. Ponte, a 13-year Sanofi veteran, at the time was working in the company's U.S.headquarters in Bridgewater, New Jersey, in the contracts group, where she was responsible for reviewing contracts.
Ponte's suit said her review of the nine contracts, which had actually already been fully executed four months before, "determined that they involved illegal incentives and/or kickbacks from" Sanofi to the two firms for their referral or sale of the diabetes drugs in violation of federal law.
Ponte "determined that the ultimate repercussions of the said contracts involved illegal incentives and/or kickbacks from Defendant Sanofi, Accenture and/or Deloitte to induce 'customers,' including physicians, hospitals and/or retail pharmacy programs such asWalgreens and Rite Aid to [among other things] influence the prescribing of drugs, and/or improperly 'switch' from selling other manufacturers' drugs (ex: Novo drugs) to selling Sanofi drugs, in violation of the aforesaid Federal healthcare laws," her suit claims. The reference to "Novo" drugs is to diabetes medication made by a Sanofi competitor, Novo Nordisk.
None of the other companies—Accenture, Deloitte, Walgreens or RiteAid—was named as a defendant in the suit.
Ponte's suit claims that Viehbacher, Urbaniak, Godleski, as well as others, "conspired and/or caused" Sanofi employees to sign off on such contracts without first obtaining approval from the company's financing, purchasing and legal departments.
It also claims those men and others instructed employees to fraudulently code the spending in the contracts in Sanofi's software system so that they would appear to be for things such as "communication agency technical costs" and "printed materials," instead of their true intentions: "illegal kickbacks."
According to the lawsuit, when Ponte raised concerns about the nine contracts, she was told by the company's contract coordinator that Godleski wanted the coordinator and Ponte "to approve the contracts and to authorize the payment of $34 million from Defendant Sanofi to ... Accenture and Deloitte without the contracts being screened or denied for the illegality."
On around March 21, 2013, the suit says, Godleski, the special projects vice president, "personally commanded" Ponte to approve the contracts, telling her Viehbacher and Urbaniak knew she had them in her queue, and that "'Viehbacher [was] extremely unhappy' with the fact that she had not yet approved them and wanted [the contracts] moving."
The suit also says that after Ponte reported the allegedly illegal activity to her superiors, Sanofi launched "an alleged internal 'investigation'" that ran into late 2013. She claims the investigation supported her findings, and that it revealed that Viehbacher, Urbaniak, Godleski and Sanofi were in violation of the company's corporate integrity agreement with HHS that it had signed on the heels of the prior kickback case, and that the three men "unlawfully 'covered up' the aforesaid fraudulent activity."
As the probe was going on, Urbaniak and Godleski in the summer of 2013 "retired" from Sanofi "with millions of dollars in severance packages ... and Defendant Urbaniak became a high-level and highly paid employee of nonparty Accenuture," the suit says.
Urbaniak did not respond to a request for comment and an Accenture spokesman said he also would relay CNBC's inquiry to Urbaniak. Information on where to reach Viehbacher and Godleski was not immediately available.
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NOV | 2014
Tenafly employee sues borough claiming he was unlawfully punished for disability
A Tenafly employee sued the borough, its Department of Public Works and several borough officials on Wednesday, claiming they unlawfully punished him for having a disability that makes him susceptible to panic attacks.
Before he was hired as a DPW driver/laborer in 2002, Aaron Perelli, 38, of Fort Lee disclosed to borough officials that he suffered from panic disorder with agoraphobia, he said in the lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in Hackensack.
The condition prevented him from driving to unfamiliar towns or for long distances without having severe and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, Perelli said in the lawsuit.
Despite assurances that he would not be required to drive out of town or for long distances, the borough “failed to reasonably accommodate” his disability, Perelli claimed, and targeted him “for having a psychological disability, which created an extremely hostile work environment.”
The suit claims that Jewel V. Thompson-Chin, the borough administrator; Robert Beutel, who retired as public works director in 2013; and Ken Kraus, a public works foreman, “engaged in a severe and pervasive pattern of mentally abusive, hostile and offensive behavior” that was designed to “punish” Perelli for being disabled.
Asked about the lawsuit on Wednesday, Thompson-Chin said, "I know nothing about it. I do know of him — he's one of our employees.” She said the lawsuit was “not a surprise.”
Tenafly Mayor Peter Rustin said he had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment on it. "But Jewel is a by-the-book lady, and I have full confidence that all of our employees are treated fairly and properly," he said.
Attempts to reach Beutel and Kraus for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Perelli said in the lawsuit that he was forced to perform out-of-town assignments, and threatened with reprimands or loss of his job if he didn’t, causing him to suffer “severe panic and anxiety attacks on an almost a daily basis.”
When he objected to the out-of-town assignments, Perelli said, Kraus would barrage him with “hostile, offensive and absurd obscenities.
Perelli claimed he also was subjected to discrimination because of a physical disability. He said he was forced to perform “unreasonably strenuous and painful physical labor involving a jackhammer” when he returned to work in 2011 after a two-month leave for a back injury sustained when he was thrown off a garbage truck driven by a drunk co-worker.
When another co-worker suggested that Perelli be assigned to light duty because of his injury, Kraus screamed, “I don’t care if he breaks his [expletive] back,” the suit said.
Earlier this year, after a bout of bronchitis that exacerbated his asthma, Perelli asked to be spared any work that might expose him to noxious fumes or dangerous chemicals, the suit said.
Despite numerous other jobs that he could have been assigned to, Perelli said, he was forced to work on a road crew laying asphalt, exposing him to noxious fumes. The following day, he said, he was unable to breathe abd was rushed to the Holy Name Hospital where he “nearly died from respiratory problems and pulmonary failure.” He was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and needed three months to recuperate, he said.
Fort Lee attorney Rosemarie Arnold called the abuse her client was subjected to “despicable” and said, “It’s shocking that the town allowed this to go on for so long despite his constant reporting of the egregious conduct.”
Knowing that Perelli’s wife, Jennifer, is half-Jamaican and that they have family members who are black, Kraus allegedly made derogatory and offensive racial remarks to harass Perelli, the suit said.
As a result of all the alleged conduct, the suit said, Perelli suffered physical, emotional and psychological harm, humiliation and anxiety and was forced to spend great sums of money for treatment. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, emotional distress damages and attorneys’ fees.
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SEP | 2014
Wrongful death lawsuit filed in Ridgefield crash that killed Fort Lee man
The father of a 20-year-old Fort Lee man who crashed his car into a building -- killing his close friend and seriously injuring another -- should have known or knew about his son’s history of drunk driving, a wrongful death lawsuit claims.
Front seat passenger, Miles Reme, 20, also of Fort Lee, died shortly after the July 24 single-car crash in Ridgefield, according to authorities. Another passenger, James Racanelli, 20, was hospitalized with serious injuries.
The suit -- filed on behalf of Reme’s mother, Deborah Scholbach-Reme and Racanelli -- names the car’s alleged driver, Tamer Ammar, his father Munther Ammar and other unidentified defendants as being liable in the wreck through negligence or carelessness.
Tamer Ammar faces charges including death by auto and driving while intoxicated. Prosecutors have said he was under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance while speeding when he slammed into an office building in Ridgefield.
Munther Ammar was “incompetent, unfit, inexperienced and/or reckless in entrusting” his son to drive the car he owned, according to the suit.
Ammar also “knew, should have known, or had reason to know” of his son’s “condition or proclivities,” the suit alleges.
Tamer Ammar has his driver’s license suspended for seven months following a May 2012 driving while intoxicated summons in Fairview, according to state Motor Vehicle Commission records. County records show he was jailed on a marijuana distribution charge in November.
He was driving “in a negligent and/or careless manner, and/or with reckless disregard” with the safety of his passengers and others, the suit alleges.
Before the wreck, Ammar was with “social guests” at the property of unidentified defendants, the suit said.
Ammar was already “visibly intoxicated” when other unnamed defendants “did continue to provide, share, encourage, condone and/or facilitate the consumption of alcoholic beverages and/or controlled, dangerous substances and/or intoxicating substances,” according to the suit.
The Fort Lee-based attorney who filed the lawsuit in Hackensack Superior Court, Rosemarie Arnold, said she doesn’t yet have details about the alleged gathering and asked anyone who may have attended to come forward.Racanelli has “no recollection” of the night and continues to suffer lasting injuries from the wreck, she added.
Ammar’s family could not be reached for comment.
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